walberg michigan hydro
Congressman Tim Walberg of Michigan offers remarks at the April 20 Hydro groundbreaking ceremony in that state.
Photo courtesy of Norsk Hydro ASA

Updated: Hydro breaks ground on Michigan plant

Facility has been designed to produce 120,000 tons of recycled-content aluminum annually.

Norway-based aluminum producer Norsk Hydro ASA has broken ground on an aluminum recycling plant in Cassopolis, Michigan. The plant has been designed to produce some 120,000 metric tons of aluminum extrusion ingot per year, using what Hydro calls 75 percent postconsumer scrap.

Hydro’s President and CEO Hilde Merete Aasheim was among those present at a ceremony held in Cassopolis April 20. Hydro says it will invest an estimated $150 million to complete the project. The ingots made there will be used in automotive applications, other transportation uses, consumer and building system applications, the firm says.

“Aluminum is a key enabler in the green transition,” Aasheim says. “Recycling aluminum scrap reduces energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions whilst promoting a more circular economy. Our plant in Cassopolis will be an example of sustainability and profitability going hand in hand.”

The Cassopolis plant will be the first large-scale producer of Hydro Circal in North America. That branded aluminum extrusion ingot contains at least 75 percent postconsumer scrap, certified by third-party auditors, and has what Hydro calls a market-leading CO2 footprint. “With a growing focus on sustainably produced aluminum, several North American customers have expressed interest in Hydro Circal,” the company says.

Hydro calls itself a leader in low-carbon recycled aluminum and says it can expand that status by bringing Hydro Circal to the United States market

“Our state-of-the-art technology allows us to dig deep in the scrap pile and re-create value by bringing low-value scrap types back to life as value-added products to demanding customers whilst supporting them in delivering on their sustainability ambitions,” says Eivind Kallevik, an executive vice president with Hydro.

Hydro predicts aluminum will play an even greater role in electric vehicles, and it has set up shop in Michigan because that is where it estimates some 90 percent of automotive suppliers have a presence. “Hydro has been in business for as long as Michigan has been making cars,” Kallevik says.

He continues, “The automotive industry is where the benefits of lightweight and infinitely recyclable aluminum really can make a difference to consumers looking to reduce transport costs and emissions. We are seeing interest from several aluminum extrusion companies and leading OEMs and look forward to partnering with them to further expand production of automotive products with our new capabilities at Cassopolis.”

 

Trond Gjellesvik, North American president of Hydro Aluminum Metals, tells Recycling Today the site will include two lines: one dedicated to Circal production that contains a minimum of 75 percent scrap and a more conventional remelt line. The site will use a low-pressure casting technology supplied by Hycast, a Hydro-owned company.

 

While the company is piloting technology in Germany that will allow it to use a wider array of obsolete scrap, Gjellesvik says the Michigan site does not include plans to deploy similar separation and sorting technology currently. Instead, he says, Hydro is working with different partners to procure end-of-life scrap, with further developments in the area of scrap sorting occurring in the future at the current site in Cassopolis or nearby. 

Gjellesvik says Hydro will be purchasing primarily 6000-series alloy obsolete scrap for use at the site, including aluminum wheels and power cables, as well as postindustrial scrap from extrusion-producing facilities. 

"We typically like to work directly with the scrap providers" rather than brokers, he says. Hydro is in discussions with many scrap processors that have shredding capabilities, Gjellesvik adds.

From 40 percent to 50 percent of the site's scrap will be postindustrial material with some primary ingot from Canada used as a "sweetener," he says. This primary aluminum will be produced using hydropower to lessen the carbon footprint of the products produced on-site. 

Operations at the site are expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2023.

At the groundbreaking ceremony, Hydro says it was joined by guests from local and state government, the Norwegian embassy to the U.S., industry partners and potential customers. Guests included Congressman Tim Walberg (MI-7); Norwegian ambassador to the United States Anniken Ramberg Krutnes; Charles Johnson, president of The Aluminum Association; Emilie LaGrow and David Johnson from the Village of Cassopolis; and Bob Hance, president and CEO of electricity provider Midwest Energy & Communications.

*This story was updated April 25 to include comments from Trond Gjellesvik, North American president of Hydro Aluminum Metals.